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Published September 01, 2009, 01:26 PM

Wheat crop yields vary in region

Some yields better than normal despite late harvest
In Minnesota, 28 percent of the spring wheat was combined by Sunday, compared with 78 percent in a normal year.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

HONEYFORD, N.D. — Don Larson hauled spring wheat from his field north of town to the Farmers Elevator Co. of Honeyford, while his brother, Marv Larson, and cousin, Orvis Haugen, wheeled 9600 John Deere combines up and down the 80 acres.

There was a short line of wheat-filled trucks waiting at the elevator, one of the first farmer’s cooperatives in the state still operating under the same name 104 years after it was formed, said Marv, who soon parked his combine to bring in a truckload, too.

It’s a late harvest, but his wheat is doing better than normal, Don said: 70 bushels an acre, about 13.5 percent protein, good color, good weight and only a little too wet, at 15 percent moisture; it’ll need to dry to 13.5 percent.

Larson knows this field well, just south of Gilby, N.D. It’s been farmed by his family since horses powered threshing machines. Once they finished the field, they were set to spend the evening trying other wheat fields to see if they were dry enough to harvest, Larson said.

Steve Camp at the Honeyford elevator said the spring wheat has been running below average protein, average or better in yield and above average weight.

Only 22 percent of North Dakota’s spring wheat crop was harvested by Sunday, weeks behind the five-year average of 76 percent by this time of year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly survey of county extension agents. In Minnesota, 28 percent of the spring wheat was combined by Sunday, compared with 78 percent in a normal year.

But in the Red River Valley, the wheat harvest is even further behind, with estimates of about 10 percent harvested by Monday. Yields are varying greatly.

Clayton Pokrzywinski has been in the grain-raising and grain-buying business for a half-century, and he’s seen better wheat than what he just took off.

“I harvested my wheat, 130 acres, and made about 20 bushels an acre,” said the longtime and retired manager of the grain elevator in Lankin, N.D., about the field he combined three miles south of town.

His farm got a weekend of 9½ inches of rain a month ago, and frost that killed wheat seedlings on the hilltops of the field, he said.

“I had one of my poorer crops since I’ve been farming,” said Pokrzywinski, who now lives most of the year in Grand Forks.

It’s part of a varied crop in an unusual year. A grain elevator employee in Fordville, N.D., said he’s seeing wheat yields ranging from 25 to 65 bushels an acre.

There are reports of much higher yields, too.

The spring wheat crop is in 88 percent good or excellent condition, aside from being two or three weeks behind normal maturing, USDA says.

The dry edible bean crop in North Dakota shows lower leaves yellowing, a key maturity indicator, on only 12 percent of the crop, versus 60 percent in a normal year by this time.

The North Dakota soybean crop shows 5 percent of the lower leaves yellowing, compared with 31 percent on average by Aug. 30 from 2004-2008. In Minnesota, 2 percent of the soybeans show such yellowing, compared with 24 percent in a typical year.

Pokrzywinski is optimistic about his soybeans. “I seeded them before my wheat,” he said. “They look terrific, darn-near waist high and lots of pods. But we need some weather without frost. Soybeans, you are looking at least 30 days (until harvest).”

Only 30 percent of North Dakota’s corn crop is in the dough stage, compared with 73 percent in an average year; Minnesota’s is 52 percent in the dough stage, behind the normal 79 percent by Aug. 30.

This week looks to be relatively warm and dry in northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, with some breeziness, about right for harvest and for pushing green crops toward ripeness.

The potato blight found 10 days ago in Grand Forks and Walsh counties appears to have been confined pretty well, with no new infestations found, said Chuck Gunnerson, director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association in East Grand Forks. Growers continue to spray to kill or prevent the blight.

Some spud growers expect to begin digging next week.

Sugar beet digging will begin on a preliminary basis today as the month of “pre-pile” gears up the five processing factories of American Crystal Sugar Co.

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